Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bye, bye Colchester giraffes

Tall story: a decorated giraffe
It was a sad day in town today as we noted that Colchester's much loved Stand Tall giraffes have been moved on.
For the past couple of months Colchester has been dotted with an array of fibreglass statues of giraffes decorated by local artists and school children. The initiative is to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Colchester Zoo and to raise funds for its conservation work - the statues are now to be auctioned.
The campaign resembles Cow Parade and Spirit Bears in the City which have used a similar approach. However Colchester Zoo and its agents must be congratulated for an ambitious approach that has really brought a lot of fun to the town over the summer.
It has worked on a number of levels. Firstly, I think it's great that a town as relatively small as Colchester has got this off the ground in the first place. The other campaigns mentioned have been in larger cities, and as we all know, despite its best efforts, Colch still resides in the town category.
There were 29 2.5m tall giraffes and 82 smaller, 1.3m versions. The simple logistics of finding willing parties to decorate the statues, distributing and collecting them, and making sure it was all done to a timetable, must have been quite daunting.
The statues were dotted around Colchester and some outlying towns such as Clacton and Romford. The most interesting aspect of the campaign is how it used social media and a Stand Tall app to encourage 'collecting' of all the giraffes. This was done through scanning a QR code with your phone. Throughout the summer, children of all ages have been busily tracking down the giraffes using an app map and swiping them. It was very addictive, and a great activity for parents and children to share. It encouraged you to get out and explore our town and has led me to parts that I was unfamiliar with (but then again, I still think of myself as a newbie).
A further layer of engagement was added by a number of third party deals from local businesses - free coffee, free toys, free use of meeting rooms, free paint testers etc - that has hopefully provided them with a bit more footfall at a time when they could all do with it. It won't save the high street, but it has given people another reason to be there. Retail theatre, they call it.
The large giraffes are being sold as a fundraiser, but the smaller ones will go back to the local schools who decorated them. My son was very excited to point out the leaf that he painted on his school's giraffe - he did find it! 
So, to recap, Stand Tall has:
  • raised awareness of Colchester Zoo's anniversary
  • raised funds for its conservation work
  • given a showcase to the area's artists
  • provided a fun summer activity for parents and kids
  • brought something different to the town centre
  • encouraged us to get out and see more of Colchester
  • given schools a nice hook for learning
  • brought more people into local businesses.
I don't know if all of these were on the original brief, but any marketer would be proud to stand up and present that list to his or her superiors. I hope the hard stats make as good reading. And I hope that the Zoo realises what a potentially award winning piece of activity it has on its hands. They should be preparing the award entries now and looking forward to more plaudits in future.